Saturday, July 20, 2013

NetSuite ERP

By Kathy Yakal

I first reviewed NetSuite about 10 years ago, when it was a very young product. At that point, it was an integrated suite of solutions that consisted of Oracle Small Business Suite, NetCRM and Advanced Accounting. Even in those early years, it was taking on functionality that would eventually make it competitive with the low end of the midrange market. I gave it five stars. Since then, NetSuite has advanced rapidly and intelligently. But so has the competition. No one received five stars in my latest group of reviews, though I looked at best-of-breed solutions.

Today's NetSuite family consists of several different integrated, cloud-based products, each with a different emphasis. NetSuite ERP focuses on financial management but is much more sophisticated and flexible than what you find in entry-level accounting software; we evaluated this element of the solution. Its core solution (which is priced from?$129 per user per month on average)?includes General Ledger, Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable, Inventory, and Fixed Assets, with many other less all-encompassing features.

NetSuite ERP is at its core a customer relationship management system, though it also supports sales force and marketing automation, as well as customer support and order management. NetSuite Ecommerce offers a rich set of tools for your online sales presence. Both are easily integrated with the core financial solution.

Excellence from the Start
NetSuite's flexibility and thoroughness are evident from the very start, from the first thing most users would look at: the dashboard. Like its competitors, NetSuite offers several pre-configured but customizable screen layouts designed for specific company roles. Employees can customize their dashboards if they're allowed to do that by the administrator.

These are real-time dashboards that report and analyze the data in the system, helping company managers monitor, for example, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). KPIs do more than tell you how many outstanding invoices or bills exist and what your account balances are. Simply put, they provide ways to assess the company's performance in terms of its organizational goals. Dashboards also deal with the more mundane details of the day with reminders of meetings, calls, and deadlines, etc.

The competition offers similar capabilities, but only?Intacct??

rivals NetSuite in this area. Both do fine jobs of presenting pre-configured data and allowing customization ? and presenting this information with a polished, state-of-the-art look and feel.

ERP is One Louder
When you start talking about the type of financial management that midrange solutions such as NetSuite offer, the phrase "accounting software" is replaced byEnterprise Resource Planning?systems (ERP). NetSuite is a good example of an ERP system. It automates and integrates critical back-office processes in ways that?go beyond what?QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions?and?Sage 50 Quantum Accounting?do, both in depth and breadth.

ERP?as exemplified in NetSuite?starts with the basic financial management tasks that QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions and Sage Quantum 50 Accounting do?only it accommodates more of them. The basic configuration provides the record formats and transaction forms that?accounting staff uses for tasks related to their areas?and they're more in-depth than Intacct's or?Microsoft Dynamics GP's. This is a key differentiator.

This means that you can create invoices, pay bills, and submit purchase orders. You can supply customers with products in a timely, accurate fashion because you know how many widgets you have in stock and can orchestrate the shipping process. You can manage documents and track time and expenses and create reports and keep precise records on your interaction with contacts. Payroll is not a built-in function, as it is in Microsoft Dynamics GP. You have to sign up with an integrated partner.

But NetSuite goes well beyond those bookkeeping tasks. For example, it's more than multi-currency; it knows how to comply with many international accounting regulations. It doesn't just keep a catalog of your fixed assets; it manages the whole fixed asset lifecycle. Rather than just keeping track of income and expenses, it facilitates sophisticated revenue recognition management. NetSuite doesn't just track inventory; it manages the entire supply chain. Wherever possible, repetitive, rules-based processes can be automated.

NetSuite's foundation is far more flexible than Sage 50 Quantum Accounting's and QuickBooks Enterprise Solution's. Its database capabilities are unlimited, and it doesn't just manage the details of jobs and projects; it does full-blown project accounting. Where low-end accounting counts integration with Excel as a plus, one of NetSuite's strengths lies in its ability to go beyond spreadsheets and let businesses do custom, system-wide inquiries based on any criteria imaginable (Intacct offers similar functionality). Real-time access to virtually any data in the system?via customizable templates and custom reports?combined with the ability to create unlimited what-if scenarios makes NetSuite an exceptionally powerful financial planning tool.


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